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What are the different types of cargo exams that CBP performs, and why do they examine the goods?

Cargo entering the United States from any foreign territory is subject to physical examinations which are to determine the admissibility of the imported goods. The admissibility of goods involves evaluation of many criteria, including:

  • If the goods are marked properly with country of origin or require special marking;
  • If the goods contain marks that infringe US trademark/copyright owners' rights;
  • If the goods violate requirements of other agencies such as Food and Drug Administration or Consumer Products Safety Commission;
  • If the shipment contains prohibited articles;
  • If the goods are correctly invoiced, classified and valued;
  • If the shipment contains illegal narcotics.

CBP uses different types of exams to increase its ability to examine cargo effectively without slowing the flow of legitimate trade. The following are the type of exams used by CBP for this determination.

  • Vacis Exam (NII) - This is a non- intrusive exam conducted at the terminal of the port of arrival. This exam is determined off the manifest that is transmitted to CBP. This exam is usually completed within 24 hours after the vessel has discharged all the containers for the port.
  • CET Exam (Contraband Enforcement Exam) - This exam is used to determine if there are illegal narcotics or prohibited goods. These exams are usually determined by country of origin or other specific information in CBP's data base.
  • Compliance Exam (Formally MET Exam) - These exams are usually designated by a review of the documentation presented to CBP in an effort to ensure that the shipment is in compliance with all CBP regulations.

The importer is responsible under the Mod Act to make sure all the information that is transmitted and presented to CBP is correct. If false information is presented the importer may face penalty actions. This means that the importer must protect itself by gaining a thorough knowledge of its suppliers and the products that it is importing.

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